Mary and the Sorrow of the Cross

Apr 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

We cannot fully appreciate the sorrow of the Cross because we cannot comprehend the innocence of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to watch a man suffer, but it’s harder to watch a child suffer. The reason for this is because we know the child is more innocent than the man. When the innocent suffer, it grieves us because of the injustice done. The more innocent the victim, the greater the injustice. And as hard as it is to consider the sufferings of Christ, if we could comprehend His purity, it would grieve us all the more.

When a child sees this kind of suffering, it affects him more, relative to the degree in which he comprehends what is happening, than it does a man. This is because the child sees with a purer heart. Injustice scandalizes a pure heart to a greater degree than it does an impure heart just as dishonesty grieves an honest man more than it does a dishonest man. The difficulty or pain of seeing injustice is increased by the purity of the beholder.

Further, it is difficult to watch a man suffer. It is more difficult to watch a friend suffer, and it is more difficult still to watch a family member suffer. The more you love someone, and the more you know them, the more difficult it is to see them suffer. If you see a stranger suffer, it is painful because of your sense of commutative justice. But if you see a loved one suffer, it is as if the suffering is happening to you.

All of this has important implications for our apprehension of the sacrifice of Christ. We cannot appreciate the suffering of Christ because we cannot comprehend the level of injustice being committed. Furthermore, since we are sinful, our moral senses are dulled so that we are not as sensitive to the suffering of the innocent as we ought to be.

The most interesting implication to consider, I think, is the sorrow of Mary at the cross. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception aside, who would dare question that Mary’s heart was pure? Her purity of heart caused the suffering of Christ to be more painful for her than for the others present and certainly more than us as we consider it as a historical event. Her love for Jesus, as her only Son, further intensified the sorrow beyond what the best of us would have endured (had we been present). It is in this way that Simeon’s prophesy was fulfilled, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).

Origen was right in saying:

No one can grasp the meaning of the Gospel unless he has rested on the breast of Jesus, and unless he has received from Him Mary, who becomes his mother also. (Origen, Commentary on John, 1:6)

By entering into a familial relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive Mary as mother.   If we increase our fidelity as Christians in the family of God, both purity of heart and love of Christ will increase.  As these two increase, the sorrow of the Cross will become more real to us, but so will the joy of the triumph of Calvary.

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  1. Tim,

    Amen, and amen. This is strongly reminiscent of the homily preached yesterday at St. Ann’s, concerning the significance of John 19:25-27.

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